Mr. Peter Prevas, for his clients, made the same objections that he made earlier, to the proximity of the petitioners and to the lack of specificity of the petition itself. Chairman Matricciani said in response that the Board has never had to define the term “immediate vicinity,” because it’s a case by case analysis. There’s a case from a rural part of Maryland that suggests that two miles might be within the immediate vicinity of a licensed establishment, but that may not apply in exactly the same way to a densely populated area like Baltimore City. The Chair said that, if he had to make a ruling on whether a petitioner qualifies, he would have to know information like how many other licenses are within the same radius and other information about the density of the area.
Ms. Ruby Purnell, president of the Smallwood Street Association, testified in opposition to the renewal of the license, stating that she has been in the neighborhood since 1955, and that her neighborhood has too many liquor establishments. Property values are going down, because businesses are not being kept up properly. She said, “I think it’s time for us to live in a place decent.”
Ms. Adeline Hutchinson, of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council and the Robert W. Coleman Community Organization, also testified in opposition to the renewal. She testified that she sees people loitering outside from open to close, every day except Sunday, since this establishment has a six-day license. She stated that this liquor store has not provided any resources to the community, comparing it with other businesses and nonprofits that have invested nearby, like Sagamore and the Neighborhood Design Center. Hutchinson pointed out the significant health disparities between her community and the city as a whole and suggested that alcohol is not a healthy product to consume.
Mr. Keith Bailey also testified in opposition to the renewal. He said he stopped by recently to buy a soda and there was a crowd of perhaps fifty people inside the store, drinking and selling drugs.
Councilman Leon Pinkett submitted a letter of opposition to the renewal of the license. Pinkett echoed Ms. Hutchinson’s testimony about the tens of millions of dollars in investment that has been happening along West North Avenue. He has seen the negative impacts of Uptown Liquors on the community. At some point, said Pinkett, the city and its agencies need to make decisions that will help the economic revitalization of West Baltimore, or we will continue to see the health disparities that Hutchinson mentioned. Matricciani replied that he sympathized with the community complaints, but that the Board was not invested with the authority to do much about it. Pinkett said that this community has been dealing with these problems for so long that they don’t have the capacity to advocate for themselves.
Baltimore Police Vice Unit Detective Abraham Gatto testified about fifteen complaints, most of which related to disorderly behavior and loitering. Gatto explained that these calls are dealt with by patrol officers, who do not routinely forward their reports to the Liquor Board. He further explained that any establishment that sells liquor tends to draw a crowd and when this happens it becomes a strain on the neighborhood and “other things occur.” Some of the fifteen calls were from the licensee himself.
Ms. Robb reiterated her organizations’ opposition to the renewal of the license.
Mr. Prevas submitted a petition in support of the renewal of the license as well as a sign in sheet from some individuals who were present to support the renewal. He offered to try to facilitate communication between the community representatives and his clients.